How do I contest a trust in California?

On Behalf of | Feb 21, 2019 | Firm News

The death of a loved one is an emotional time and it is made worse when you feel slighted by the inheritance or if you believe the trustee is mismanaging the estate.

If the estate is in a trust can you contest it? Yes, but there are rules.

A trust timeline

The first hurdle is the timeline. A trust contest must start within 120 days of receiving notice about the trust from the trustee. There are some instances when the deadline can be lengthened but they are rare.

If you never receive the trust document, the deadline stays open indefinitely. However, the court can decide not to hear a contest if you wait too long to bring it.

If you don’t file within 120 days, you are barred from contesting the trust in the future.

Other considerations

In addition to meeting the deadline, you must also show that you have standing to contest the trust. That means that you are a beneficiary.

Many trusts have a clause that states if you challenge the trust, you forfeit any benefits from the trust. State courts will enforce this clause if your contest is frivolous, but if your contest is made in good faith and with evidentiary support, you won’t forfeit your benefits.

Irrevocable trusts, despite their name, can sometimes be broken, although it usually takes either the trustor’s agreement or unanimous consent from all the beneficiaries.

To contest the trust, you have to show that the trustor was incapacitated, under undue influence, or the trust was made by mistake or through forgery. Other options include proving that the trustee is engaging in bad acts, misappropriating funds or failing to make distributions.

No matter your cause, contesting a trust is a difficult matter that requires the steady hand of a qualified, experienced attorney.